Townships need a revolution

2019-07-17 06:01
Tshegofatso Leeuw Social Observer

Tshegofatso Leeuw Social Observer

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Township businesses started by our elders, and demonstrating their entrepreneurial spirit, are now in the graveyard.

Not so long ago one professor spoke about the “retail business graveyard”. By that he means when your retail business is no longer making profit nor making a difference, it is time to take it to the “retail graveyard”.

However, the township economy did not go to the retail graveyard – because we just destroyed it ourselves.

Growing up in the townships during the early 1990s, one was proud of the economic hub that existed. One aspired to emulate business moguls around us.

Dear Mangaung resident, please cast your mind back. Do you remember supermarkets in Phahameng? MicroRama in Rocklands? Do you remember that a tuck-shop was owned and managed by you?

This you did after school and during holidays, under the watchful eye of elders, yet you were unaware they were mentoring and getting you to take over the reins.

No, no, do not misquote me, I am not talking about foreign nationals, I am reflecting the mirror unto us! You and I only.

What happened with us?

I often walk past abandoned stores in Rocklands. They are not just small buildings, they are big. I do pause for a moment and ponder what could have been if the owner tried a different business venture there.

As I am in love with the process of building a house, I walked past a certain house where they used to make concrete block bricks (“bloksteens”) and red burnt clay bricks.

I used to frequently walk past the place when I was a “laaitie” (young boy) between 1994 and 2001. It is no longer in existence.

“The owner passed away and left it with his three daughters and two sons. Well, they drank it to the ground,” I was told by a tall old man drinking his “skelm-gemmer” (home brewed beer).

While I was eating a township sandwich, “kota”, and walking past an open field in Phase 2, Bloemfontein, I remembered that there was a middle-aged man who used to create window panes and cut glass at that field. He drove a beige bakkie and my mother bought many of his window panes. Last year, I got to talk with a middle-aged white man, who told me how Thaba Nchu was “township economically booming” when he was a factory maintenance electrician during the 1980s. But all that is no more, as he told me with a sad face.

The graveyard is also figurative. Hence, a mindset. Now­adays township businesses are a supply of too much of the same thing.

What now? Who will be the next entrepreneurs like Father Moshashe, Freddy Kenney, Zandi Twayi, Petrus “Whitehead” Molemela and Dondolo?

The cupboard is not entirely empty, there are positive signs. Hope is to see a township industrial revolution; an upholsterer turning into a mattress factory, a salon hairdresser turning into a haircare producer, a shoe repairer turning into a shoe factory and an aluminum maker turning into an aluminum supplier.

“Awakening the giant inside you” – as Ponane Mahlaba wrote in one of his articles – should inspire the township industrial revolution.

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